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Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Russell F. West

Committee Members

Russell O. Mays, Louise L. MacKay, Lori Marks


Students with disabilities need properly trained educators. The capacity of teachers to affect student learning is contingent upon the preparation they receive. Attitudes and feelings of preparedness to work with students with disabilities expressed by teachers indicate that their training is inadequate.

The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to explore preservice and beginning teachers’ attitudes and feelings of preparedness to work with students with disabilities. Participants included preservice teachers who were just beginning their teacher education program (Phase 1), student teachers (Phase 2), and practicing teachers (Phase 3) who had been enrolled in either undergraduate or graduate initial licensure teacher preparation programs at East Tennessee State University. A three-part survey containing both closed and open-ended items, including the Opinions Relative to the Integration of Students with Disabilities (ORI) scale, was used for data collection.

Quantitative findings in this study were mixed or inconclusive. Some significant differences were found in overall ORI scores and subscale scores based on 1) the phase of training for undergraduates, 2) program levels (undergraduates and graduates), 3) type of teacher certification, and 4) the existence of relationships with persons with disabilities. No differences in attitude were found for any program-related teaching experiences with persons with disabilities. When combined with qualitative analysis, the study revealed a collection of disconnects that provided insight into the preparation of teachers. Disconnects were noted between expressed attitudes and feelings of preparedness; feelings of preparedness and program benefit; teacher preparation and teacher practice; and expressed value and need for more field experiences and the impact of program-related teaching experiences on attitudes and feelings of preparedness. Themes involving personal relationships, the expectancy to collaborate and learn through ongoing experience, and the limited focus on students with disabilities throughout the teacher education programs provided clues to factors that might potentially impact feelings of preparedness to work with students with disabilities.

Document Type

Dissertation - restricted


Copyright by the authors.